Last week, a robotic artist named Ai-Da had been on the way to exhibit her works at the Great Pyramids, when she was suddenly detained by Egyptian authorities over concerns that she could’ve been a spy.
While traveling with her human sculptor Aidan Meller, border guards took issue with Ai-Da’s eyes—which feature cameras—and her in-built modems.
The cameras hidden within Ai-Da’s pupils aid her in her work, as her drawings are based on algorithmic responses to what her eyes observe. As per Artnet News, the robot can also hold a conversation using AI language models and human inputs.
According to Engadget, Ai-Da typically gets through airport security in a specialized cargo case, but was denied entry and held at the border till the following Wednesday, just hours before her exhibition was scheduled to start.
“I can ditch the modems, but I can’t really gouge her eyes out. The British ambassador has been working through the night to get Ai-Da released, but we’re right up to the wire now,” Meller told The Guardian in an interview before the robot was released.
Thankfully, Ai-Da was released in time for the Forever Is Now exhibit, which is currently running till November 7. The show features numerous Egyptian and international artists, and interestingly, is presented by Art D’Égypte together with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism, and the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Given that government agencies had already been aware of Ai-Da’s participation in the exhibit, and hence her impending arrival, it’s stranger still that the robot artist wasn’t allowed to pass the border. Perhaps it was a simple mixup, or wires were crossed between departments.
“She is an artist robot, let’s be really clear about this. She is not a spy,” Meller said.
“But the whole situation is ironic, because the goal of Ai-Da was to highlight and warn of the abuse of technological development, and she’s being held because she is technology. Ai-Da would appreciate that irony, I think.”
This content was originally published here.